Latest & Greatest – Rough Road to Justice: The Journey of Women Lawyers in Texas

By Betty Trapp Chapman  Published by Texas Bar Books (2008)  KF 299 .W6 .C457 2008

By Betty Trapp Chapman

Published by Texas Bar Books (2008)

KF 299 .W6 .C457 2008

Rough Road to Justice: The Journey of Women Lawyers in Texas chronicles the struggles that female lawyers had to face in a profession that was dominated by men for so long. Recounting experiences from the women who lived this journey, author and historian Betty Trapp Chapman details the history of women lawyers from the first woman believed to have acted as an attorney in the United States to the first woman to be appointed to the country’s highest court. In between those two milestones are dozens of stories to be told. Chapman relates those stories, highlighting the various and varied achievements that women lawyers have earned along the way.

Chapman begins her book by discussing the initial obstacles that women lawyers encountered in their endeavor to find a place in the legal profession and the women pioneers that sought to break through the barriers that relegated them to occupations within the home and limited them to roles related to the family. She includes such groundbreakers as Edith Locke, who in 1902 presumably became the first female lawyer in Texas, and Hortense Ward, who was the first woman in Texas to be admitted to the United States Supreme Court Bar in 1915. Although Locke never appeared to have practiced in Texas, Ward became associated with her attorney husband and partnered with him for almost thirty years. Chapman also discusses the educational opportunities that were available to these women who were pursuing the law. She points out that the most common means of becoming versed in the law was through studying the law under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Other avenues were correspondence courses, proprietary schools, and eventually law schools.

Even though more women were receiving the needed education, Chapman is quick to remind her readers that employment opportunities were still relatively lacking. Jobs in courts and as legal professors in law schools were foreclosed to women. In addition, law firms were not eager to hire female lawyers for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to, pregnancy, disabilities of coverture, and general gender bias. Thus, many women who sought to work in law firms were essentially forced to become solo practitioners. Still, there were some places where women could work, including title companies, legal departments of oil companies, legal aid offices, and of course, law libraries. One of the most noted librarians was Marian Boner, who was appointed as the first Director of the Texas State Law Library in 1972 and was the author of A Reference Guide to Texas Law and Legal History, which Chapman describes as “a definitive reference source."

Perhaps the greatest hurdles that needed to be jumped were those encountered by African-American women who aspired to enter the legal profession. Not only did they face difficulties in the pursuit of their goals but also once they gained the right and privilege to practice law, they faced discrimination from their male peers, jury members, and the public at large. In this regard, Chapman relates the story of Charlye O. Farris, the first African-American woman licensed to practice law in Texas, having been admitted to the bar in 1953. Other notable African-American women who broke the gender and color barrier include Barbara Jordan, who became Texas’ first African-American senator since 1883 and was one of six women from Texas to have served in the United States House of Representatives, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, who became the first African-American to be a judge in the Southern District of Texas, and Sheila Jackson Lee, who was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the Eighteenth Congressional District in 1994 and who is still serving today.

Other notable women lawyers that Chapman focuses upon include:

  • Kay Bailey Hutchison – the first Republican woman elected to the Texas House of Representatives and the first woman to represent the Lone Star State in the United States Senate;
  • Michol O’Connor – a lawyer who led a varied career as a briefing attorney for the First Court of Appeals, assistant district attorney in Harris County, assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District, and founder of Jones McClure Publishing, now O’Connor’s, the publisher of a well-known and popular series of legal practice aids commonly requested here at the Harris County Law Library;
  • Marsha Floyd – an Assistant County Attorney at the Harris County Attorney’s Office who was the lead attorney on a case preventing the Harris County Commissioners from acting as the Board of the newly created Harris County Toll Road Authority and usurping the power of the county attorney’s office;
  • Judge Sarah T. Hughes – the first woman in the country to become a federal judge and the judge who swore in Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson as president after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination; and
  • Adelfa B. Callejo – one of the first Hispanic female attorneys and an advocate for the disadvantaged.

Absent from Chapman's accounts of pioneering female lawyers is Camille Elizabeth Stanford Openshaw, the second woman to graduate from South Texas School of Law and the first woman to be elected to the Lawyers Library Association Board of Directors. She gained notoriety when she accepted the case of Raymond Hamilton, a former lieutenant of Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame. For more information, please see the Harris County Law Library’s digital exhibit dedicated to this woman of distinction.

If you are interested in learning more about these inspirational women attorneys, take the journey and read Rough Road to Justice: The Journey of Women Lawyers in Texas. Today’s female legal professionals are fortunate to have these brave and pioneering women as mentors and role models, something that the women before them never had.

Latest & Greatest – Raising the Bar: The Crucial Role of the Lawyer in Society

By Talmage Boston  Published by State Bar of Texas  KF 298 .B67 2012   

By Talmage Boston

Published by State Bar of Texas

KF 298 .B67 2012


In his book, Raising the Bar: The Crucial Role of the Lawyer in Society, Talmage Boston challenges his fellow lawyers to “raise the bar” and reclaim the elevated position that lawyers once held in society. Boston begins his look at the individuals that served as role models for the legal profession by examining the life and career of one of our country’s leading examples of honesty and integrity: Abraham Lincoln. He outlines Lincoln’s six points of advice, composed sometime in the 1850s, to assist those desiring to enter the practice of law. These tidbits of advice are reflected to some degree in the ethical rules to which lawyers must adhere, such as diligence, the provision of candid advice, and the importance of being honest in transactions and dealings. Boston also details those characteristics that intensified his greatness. These attributes included his brainpower, his self-control, his emotional intelligence, and his “high sense of purpose.”

Linked with Lincoln for his integrity and wisdom, Atticus Finch, the empathetic small-town lawyer from To Kill a Mockingbird, serves as Boston’s second inspirational role model. He cites examples of how Finch’s words and demeanor inspired many people to join the legal profession. Atticus Finch provided services to the poor, recognized the value of alternative dispute resolution, considered other perspectives, acknowledged the need for color-blind justice, and championed the power of the legal system while still conceding its limitations. Even today, Atticus Finch still ranks high on the list of favorite lawyers.

The author doesn’t simply focus his attention on historical and fictional lawyers; he also analyzes the careers of two lawyers he deems to be the greatest of the last 50 years: Leon Jaworski and James A. Baker III. Boston describes Jaworski as the protector and preserver of the Rule of Law. He supports this notion by highlighting five cases which Jaworski himself believed were the most important of his life, including State of Texas v. Jordan Scott and United States v. Nixon.  Baker, on the other hand, Boston portrays as a lawyer who changed the world for the better. Chief of Staff during the Reagan Administration and Secretary of State during the Bush years, Baker utilized and applied the skills he refined as a business lawyer to his positions of diplomacy.

Boston also concentrates his interest on lawyers who became novelists and who not only used their legal experience to tell compelling stories but also to raise awareness of serious questions that affect the legal profession and the public at large. He examined the careers of Louis Auchincloss, whose novels dealt with the upper crust of New York society, Richard North Patterson, whose books increasingly focused upon the political arena, and John Grisham, whose legal thrillers evolved into “issue books” dramatizing social injustices. Still, despite the different paths the writings of these authors took, each drew on their experiences as lawyers and/or litigators to create stories worth reading.

Lastly, Boston turns his sights on Theodore Roosevelt. Though not a lawyer himself, Roosevelt lived and existed on the fringes of the law and various legal situations, having aligned himself with lawyers. However, the author uses Roosevelt as a cautionary tale. Roosevelt’s life stands as a warning to lawyers to keep their exuberance in check so as to avoid a similar crash and burn scenario suffered by Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a larger-than-life character, living in the so-called arena. However, this zeal attributed to his ultimate downfall, a sad end for someone so historically significant.

If you are interested in learning about the achievements of several distinguished lawyers and the characteristics that caused them to “raise the bar,” read Talmage Boston’s Raising the Bar: The Crucial Role of the Lawyer in Society.

Latest & Greatest – The Noble Lawyer

By William J. Chriss  Published by State Bar of Texas, 2011  KF 298 .C48 2011

By William J. Chriss

Published by State Bar of Texas, 2011

KF 298 .C48 2011

Recognizing the apparent dislike and derision that much of the public feels toward the bench and bar, the author of The Noble Lawyer takes up the task of defending lawyers and explains how, despite these attacks, the profession as a whole can regain its status as a noble one. William Chriss begins his examination of the public’s perception of the legal profession by analyzing the causes of the enmity that the public has for the lawyer and why it feels the need to engage and takes great pleasure in lawyer-bashing and lawyer-hating. Positing that the jury trial and the law of torts are at the core of this anti-lawyer movement, Chriss traces the history and developments of tort law, especially with respect to negligence, and identifies some of the factors that have exacerbated this aversion to lawyers, such as the rise and prevalence of lawyer advertising and the larger jury verdicts like those found (and readily publicized) in personal injury cases. He notes, too, that circumstances in the 1970s turned the public against the law in general and eventually against the lawyers and that lawyer jokes were no longer limited to poking fun at the work lawyers did but morphed into criticisms of the attorneys themselves as individuals.

The author does present a bright side, though. He provides examples of lawyers throughout history who embodied the notion of nobility that he believes the attorneys of today could attain once again. He cites such legal icons as Cicero, Bartolomé de las Casas, and Abraham Lincoln, not to mention the most beloved fictional noble lawyer, Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. In the end, the author exhorts his fellow lawyers to become more proactive in changing the public’s perception of the lawyer as a greedy, amoral character, for, as he concludes, “the key to educating a conflicted public…is for lawyers to be nobler.”